My First Gruit

For those of you that know what a gruit is….well, you’re probably snobby beer connoisseurs or other types of freaks. For the rest of you, I have a bit of an explanation. It’s a type of beer that mostly isn’t made anymore, and ale seasoned with an herb mixture. Typically the gruit mix takes the place of hops, though some gruits used to use hops in small quantities.

I’m not a big fan of lots of hops. Call me crazy, but the bitter flavor just isn’t really my thing. I do tend to like the darker porters and stouts, but that’s probably for the sweetness of their malts. So when I was at dinner at the Cambridge Brewing Company last night trying to pick a beer, the description with ‘no hops’ was attractive to me. Plus from the description, it looked…really good. Flavorings like licorice and wild rosemary are personal favorites of mine in food – how could they not be good in beer?

My dinner companions of that evening would not agree with me, but I found it really enjoyable.  it was almost like a beer/herb tea combination.  I know the very idea might make some of you feel yacky,  but at the end of the meal it really cleansed the palate.  I thought to myself, “If I can ever find it again, I’m going to try it again”.

After further research, this might not be such a good idea.  I went home and fell asleep quicking with a pretty bad headache.  According to wikipedia, the herbs in a traditional (mine from last night included)  gruit contain substances that are mildly or moderately narcotic.  While I may or may not have been suffering from those effects, at least one of the ingredients probably caused my need to hit the sack.  Wild rosemary, or Marsh Labrador Tea, is not really rosemary at all – in fact, the plant has toxic compounds called turpenes.  It’s like the stuff in turpentine, and it makes you aggressive even in small quantities.  There are even worse symptoms if you ingest more than a little.  According to wikipedia, “The mere smell of the plant may cause headache to some people.”  Hm.  Information I could’ve used before drinking the beer.

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